In an interview on Wednesday with the company’s marketing director, Ms Anne Bonnet, on issues ranging from growing their export base to the how they tackle social responsibility
Please give us something of a background of Femina. The company has obviously been around for a while and is now second or third generation?
Femina was started by Mr. John Robinson after the separation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia. He started it with his wife and, Mr. Moyo. It started in the garage with only two or three sewing machines. We then progressed to a factory located along Khami Road. We are about to celebrate our 50th anniversary next year, and I am third generation running the family business
Who is your target market and how is it segmented?
The target market varies, from our young professionals to our mature ladies. The corporate range has two distinct ranges, we have the contemporary line which is for the younger ladies that want the form fitting contemporary look and we have our classic range which is for our more conservative ladies that doesn’t want anything close fitted. Both ranges are professional looking. We market those through various agencies in Zimbabwe and corporations that we sell to. In our fashion line, our target market is the mother of the bride. So in total we have four different segments. We do work for Edgars under their label, we also do school wear for private schools, we also have our corporate ware and fashion line.
How is Femina currently faring on the Market and what is your current reach?
I think we are doing well for the kind of product that we are selling simply because there are not a lot of companies that are doing the same thing we are doing. Most of our competition in the boutique range are no longer in business or are producing very little.
Is social responsibility part of your consideration when you are hiring staff?
We hire a lot from KG6, so we have had a variety of people of people in wheelchairs, a variety of people with different abilities, we also have hearing impaired as well. We have programs on the computers for sign language, and a few members of the admin are learning the language as well.
What things are you involved in in the community?
We just had a blood drive, we do work with new start. We donate to program like KG6. We donate a lot to the SPCA, to Island Hospice. We also do a lot with Precious Life, and Rotary. This has been a part of life for us, since my grandfather’s time
Doing business in Zimbabwe today is not the easiest feat and the state of the economy doesn’t help; how would you say Femina Garment is able to stay afloat?
I would say all companies in Zimbabwe are having to work much harder in order to stay in business. I don’t think any sector of the economy is easy. It through incredible managerial skills and plenty of help from God we stay in business. The tough economy that we are in forces you to work harder and smarter, our product is a very strong product and I don’t know if we would be as strong if it had not be for the competition.
Are you involved on the export market and how is that faring?
We have changed the way we design. Everything has changed in the last five years. We have had to come up to an international standard in order to compete with international brands. We were at the Zambian Trade Fair we managed to get an order from there and we are trying to get Zambian boutiques to buy. The SADC region is where we are currently focused on. We haven’t started exporting in massive quantities yet, but that is our goal.
What would you say is your competitive advantage?
Our advantage is that we are a small company and that allows us to easily adapt. Because it is a small company, we have different generations working here and now it feels like a family, but everyone is trying to prove that they deserve to work there. We also keep our ear on the ground, and listen to our customers.
How is Femina going to beat the cheaper foreign manufactured goods (and we won’t mention any countries at this point)?
We don’t compete against the cheaper market. What we have done is not do what they are doing. We are constantly pursuing quality.
I imagine that environmental friendliness is a pertinent issue in the Industry; what roles are you playing in this regard?
We do a lot of recycling, the recycling company takes the paper from the design remnants and the extra materials will be used for blankets. There is nothing here that goes to waste
How is the current state of the South African Rand affecting you?
We don’t really buy from South Africa. Most of our products come from India and China, so it does not really affect us
In terms of outlook, what exciting things can we expect from Femina Garments in 2016 and beyond?
We are looking at expanding our corporate brand. We have some agents that we have signed up around the country and we hope to see some movement from there. We are also hoping to see an improvement in the market shares
Is there anything else that you might like to share or for the public to be aware of?
We are working very hard to stay relevant in the market and just that we appreciate that there are Zimbabweans who still want Zimbabwean made products. And thank God for people that are faithful to a Zimbabwe made product, because without people who are supporting our local market we wouldn’t be in existence. We thank all those who are supporting us.
Thank you so much for your time
Thank you for coming out here